Jonathan and Joshua Luna broke into the comics scene through Image Comics in 2004 with their miniseries "Ultra," and since then the duo dubbed "The Luna Brothers" have created the fan favorite series' "The Sword" and "Girls." In early 2012, Joshua began his own ongoing title, "Whispers," and in November 2012 Jonathan Luna debuts his first solo project -- the prose story, "Star Bright and the Looking Glass" with Image.
The 72 page hardcover mixes narrative with Jonathan's watercolor paintings, focusing on the titular Star Bright, a beautiful young woman, and her animal friends. An all-ages story, "Star Bright" is a challenging change of pace for the Luna Brother, and CBR News spoke with him about the personal hurdles of creating the book, flying solo on his first project and where the idea originally spurned.
CBR News: How long have you been kicking around the idea of doing a storybook-type project like this?
Jonathan Luna: I kind of surprised myself with the decision to make a picture book. After "The Sword" ended, I took a two-year sabbatical, but I was still creating. I played with photography and film, and I learned how to paint with oil, acrylic and watercolor. For the past decade I’ve wanted to make an art book -- which I still might do -- but as I got into it, I questioned its meaningfulness. I realized it was missing the story element I was used to working with in comics. So I decided to do a fairy-tale picture book. I’ve been working on "Star Bright and the Looking Glass" since December 2011. There’s definitely been a certain kind of imagery in my head I’ve been dying to put on paper. I’ve been into pop surrealism for many years, so I wanted to incorporate that kind of art into my new work. I wanted it to be ethereal and a little dark. That may not completely come across in the work, but it’s at least inspired by it. Also, the theme of beauty runs throughout my other works with Joshua, and it’s central in this book. But, ultimately, this is a story about friendship. Also, I don’t think I’m going to call "Star Bright and the Looking Glass" a "storybook." The term implies it’s more for children. I’m hoping anyone of any age will read it.
What can you tell us about the book's lead character Star Bright and her pals Toad, Owl and Capybara?
Star Bright is a beautiful young woman who had been abandoned as an infant in the woods. She is found by Toad, Owl and Capybara, and they grow up together as friends. Star Bright’s beauty is central to the story, and the animals were specifically chosen for their abilities and eccentricities.
On the other side of the fence, who is the evil sorceress tormenting our heroine?
The story isn’t very long, so I’m just going to say the sorceress is evil and she wants to steal Star Bright’s beauty.
You mentioned beauty is a central theme to "Star Bright" as well as many of your other works -- what do you find so intriguing about the subject?
I’ve always loved to draw beautiful women, as my fans probably already know. A lot of pop surrealism consists of beautiful women and nature, so I’m drawn to it. But I like to explore the negative aspects of beauty as well; like narcissism. Some narcissism is healthy, but some of it is not. This is a theme of the book as well. The love of self versus others.
You're obviously known for working with your brother Joshua on books like "Girls" and "The Sword." How did working on this project solo differ from those other experiences?
It’s very different from what I’m used to in many ways. It’s my first time writing alone, prose for that matter. It’s one picture book versus a comic book series; it feels a bit odd to work on something for a year and just release it at once. It’s analog -- watercolor -- versus digital; although I do some editing in Photoshop. And it’s for all-ages. My previous books were pretty much for mature readers. I don’t know exactly why I’m doing so many things differently. I guess I just like to change things up sometimes. And I do like to challenge myself.
When it comes to challenging yourself, was there a particular aspect of this project which was more challenging than the rest?
Probably writing in prose. With comics, you kind of just focus on dialogue and images. Now, I have to use words, along with the images, to explain what’s going on. It’s challenging, but also rewarding when I feel it’s going in a good direction.
Creating a book that's a mix of prose and watercolor paintings is, on paper, a departure from the usual comic book format -- did you tackle "Star Bright" differently than your sequential projects?
With our Luna Brothers comics, I co-wrote the plot with Joshua and he wrote the scripts. That said, I’ve always been pretty organized with my writing. I start out writing themes and concepts, then I go into the plot, building a foundation, then the script. Scripting is constant -- even after I’ve made the illustrations. I’m always reworking things.
Were there several different formats you considered to present "Star Bright and the Looking Glass" or was the goal always to do a 9x12 hardcover?
I have a lot of picture books and art books, and they tend to be of similar format. So I guess I’ve always had my heart set on that traditional look. And, as for now, I don’t have plans to release it in softcover or digital.
What went into deciding to omit a softcover and digital release?
For "Star Bright and the Looking Glass," I feel the large hardcover format is a big part of the art in itself. I just don’t believe I’d get the same "fairy-tale picture book" feel if it was softcover or digital. The book’s cover has gold foil for the design elements, which I’m pretty excited about. That’s obviously something you can’t do with digital. But yeah, this is what I prefer as of now.
Jonathan Luna's first solo outing "Star Bright and the Looking Glass" hits comic stands in all its hardcover, painted glory on November 14th 2012.